Finland’s bold AI experiment, “Elements of AI”

The massive global open online course that’s training an entire population

The course

Free and open to all, the beautifully designed Elements of AI is an online course like no other: It explains what artificial intelligence is, what it can (and can’t) do, and how it affects our lives – all in easy-to-grasp terms, with no programming or complicated math required.

The course grew out of a partnership between Reaktor Inc. and the University of Helsinki. It is an agenda-setting paragon of a corporation and the government coming together to inspire, educate, and do good in the world.

Elements of AI graduation

Elements of AI at a glance

Massive

More than 140,000 signups in nine months.

Global

Participants from over 90 countries.

Open

Around 40% of participants so far have been women, more than double the average in computer science courses. Over 25% of students are over the age of 45.

Online

The website has been visited 5,6M times with an average time on site of 5,3 minutes.

Course

Elements of AI has already trained more than 1% of the Finnish population on the basics of artificial intelligence.

Visit the course homepage

“The idea has a simple, Nordic ring to it: Start by teaching 1 percent of the country's population, or about 55,000 people, the basic concepts at the root of artificial technology, and gradually build on the number over the next few years.”

Politico

The Idea

In what is often dubbed the “Finnish Miracle,” Finland was able to transform itself after WW2 from a poor rural agricultural society into one of the most prosperous and technologically advanced nations in the world. Finns achieved all of that without oil or other natural minerals, investing in education and research and development instead.

We wanted to see if the same could be done with AI; if Finland could come to rival global tech giants like China and the United States. The goal of our course was not to create some esoteric program for the 1%, but rather to equip all citizens with the knowledge needed to make informed decisions on AI and harness it for the benefit of our nation.

“We’ll never have so much money that we will be the leader of artificial intelligence. But how we use it — that’s something different”

Mika Lintilä, Economic Minister of Finland

“I encourage everyone to take this #elementsofAI course.”

Sauli Niinistö, President of Finland

The Impact

1 million
The Finnish government’s revised estimate of the number of Finns who should educate themselves on AI

250+
Over 250 high-profile Finnish companies have signed up for the #AIchallenge (#tekoälyhaaste) to educate their employees about AI

+79%
Applications to the Master’s Program in Data Science at the University of Helsinki are up 79% from 2018, making it the most popular degree at the Faculty of Science

2,000
Around 2,000 new users sign up for the Elements of AI course each week, without any paid advertising

11,500
The Elements of AI website and articles written about it have been shared online more than 11,500 times

“What a fantastic showcase of Finnish education prowess! #learning #education #ai”

Juha Sipilä, Prime Minister of Finland

International recognition

Finalist in “Innovations in Connecting People” category at the SXSW Innovation Awards

“Finland’s grand AI experiment”
Politico

“Inside Finland’s plan to become an artificial intelligence powerhouse”
Wired

“Finnish university’s online AI course is open to everyone”
Engadget

“Helsingin yliopiston ja ohjelmistoyritys Reaktorin maksuttomalle tekoälykursille on ilmoittautunut 20 000 ihmistä – tavoitteena kouluttaa prosentti suomalaisista tänä vuonna”
Helsingin Sanomat

“AI 101, Because We Can’t Escape the Inevitable (It’s Free Too)”
Futurism

“What is AI anyway? The University of Helsinki’s free online course will explain it”
Fast Company

“Граждан Финляндии обучат ИИ-технологиям”
– Kommersant

“Yeni Başlayanlar İçin Tamamen Ücretsiz ve Sertifikalı Online Yapay Zeka Kursu!”
Webtekno.com

“Universidade de Helsinki abre curso online gratuito de Inteligência Artificial para todos”
Meiobit

“Ny gratiskurs ska göra Finland marknadsledande på AI – du kan också gå den”
Techworld

“ELEMENTS OF AI Gratis universitets­kurs skal gi alle bedre innsikt i kunstig intelligens”
Digi.no

“Un corso gratuito sull’intelligenza”
Metro Milano

“Künstliche Intelligenz: Finnland bietet kostenlose KI-Kurse für jedermann”
Mobilegeeks.de

“Initiative en Finlande : Création d’un cours gratuit d’intelligence artificielle ouvert à tous”
ActuIA

Next up

New language versions
We are launching the course in Sweden – in collaboration with the government there – in February 2019. The course has also been translated from its original English version into Finnish and Portuguese and will later come out in Dutch.

Partnerships with other major countries and cities
We are in discussions with governments, nonprofits, and companies around the world about ways to educate even greater masses of people on AI.

Advanced-level sequel to the course
A more challenging follow-up course that requires rudimentary programming will be released next summer.